Saturday, February 11, 2012

I need a sandwich.

Those who know me on Facebook will know that last night, I got a craving for a sandwich. A real sandwich.

I'm guessing this distinction will make no sense for those who haven't lived in Taiwan, so let me explain. Here, when I tell people that I eat a sandwich for lunch most days--just a sandwich, with maybe a piece of fruit on the side--they look at me like I'm crazy. "Aren't you hungry?" they ask, their face showing utter horror at the prospect.

See, in Taiwan, sandwiches look like this:

Take a close look: four pieces of very white, very soft, very nutrition-free bread, with wafer thin slices of egg, ham, and egg stuck between them with mayonnaise. Also, it's only a half. And I chose these pictures with care: if you look at the label, you can see that this sandwich is from a place called 85*, which is a major, and pretty nice/spendy, Taiwanese bakery/cafe chain. This is what their sandwiches look like; in the Taiwanese mind, this is what a sandwich looks like: lots of bread, cut in a triangle, with tiny toppings hiding between layers of mayo.

By contrast, when I say sandwich, I mean like this:

 Or like this:

Or even like this:

You better use 2 hands for those puppies, and you better not have any dessert plans. The bread is tougher and grainier (this is literally the only instance I can think of where that is a good thing), more complex, and even so it takes a back seat to the gloriously thick pile of sliced meat and veggies. Just Googling these images made me hungry.

So today, I satisfied my cravings at one of the very very few places in Kaohsiung where that is possible: Muddy Waters. It's not near my apartment; it was about a 20 minute scooter ride to get there, but it was 100% worth it. They speak English as a matter of course there, easily directing me through their fully English menu and explaining that it would cost 10% more if I wanted to change my order to "for here." They weren't exactly friendly and it wasn't exactly cheap, but I didn't care: I walked out of there with a fat ham and turkey sandwich with Pepper jack cheese on walnut rye bread, with "everything."

I couldn't wait to get home with my treasure; I crossed the street and found one of the most beautiful parks I've ever seen, where I sat on a bench enjoying my sandwich with two hands as a parade of people out walking their dogs or playing in the sun with their kids strolled by. A little boy glared at me as his dad tried to get him to say "hello," and numerous dogs got called away just as they got within hungry sniffing distance of my sandwich. It wouldn't have mattered, though: I wasn't sharing.

Samia mentioned another sandwich shop in town, not far from my route to church. Methinks tomorrow will hold another sandwich for this hungry American. A real one.

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